Monday, July 31, 2006

NRO's Jonah Golberg is back in The Star!

About a week ago "Doughy Pantload" made The Star that prompted this post. Jonah is well known as a "warblogger". He supports Bu$hCo and the Republicans nearly every column. Jesus General has some nice images contrasting real heroes, those making sacrifices for Bu$h's stupidly thought out and dreadfully handled war of choice, with the likes of Jonah. Dubyah was a rich boy cheerleader so the irony is running rich.

Today's Sunday's "Dumb, lazy folks should not vote — More voters could undermine process" has a general point that I'll agree with in that the idea of getting voters to the polls via entry into a lottery is misplaced. The proponent is a touch odd perhaps in his approach to getting people to vote yet Jonah's response is a combination of his arrogance and distain for both liberals and poor people. Here are portions:

... Since the civil rights era, Americans have been indoctrinated with the message that voting is the essential yardstick of citizenship. Editorialists, civics teachers and an assortment of deep-thinking movie stars residing in Periclean Hollywood have gone to great lengths to tell Americans that voter apathy is a terrible evil and that, conversely, high voter turnout is a sign of civic health.

Indeed, for several years, voting rights activists have been pushing to give prison inmates and younger teenagers the right to vote, presuming that giving rapists, killers and Justin Timberlake fans a bigger say will improve our democratic process.

The push to make voting much easier has been considerably less controversial.

Weekend voting, voting by mail and online voting are constantly greeted as vital reforms of our electoral system. And although some of these reforms are probably benign, all assume that even the slightest inconvenience in voting is an outrage because democratic health is purely a numbers game: More voters equals a healthier society.

My own view is that voting should be more difficult because things of value usually require a little work. That goes for citizenship, too.

Consider Internet voting. In the conventional view, the only legitimate criticism of online voting is its susceptibility to fraud. Almost no one questions its advisability if it worked — even though online voting assumes that we desperately need to hear from people who otherwise couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch.

Voting fetishists often liken democracy to a national "conversation" or "dialogue." So, tell me: What intelligent conversation is aided by the intrusion of Beavis and Butt-Head?

What is surprising about Doc Osterloh’s wacky idea is that the franchise maximizers hate it. The New York Times dubbed it "daft" and "one of the cheesier propositions on the November ballot." USA Today called it "tawdry." Fair enough.

But I think part of the reason they’re so scandalized is that Osterloh is taking their logic to its natural conclusion. Advocates of increasing voter turnout already frame the issue in terms of "what’s in it for you." MTV’s condescending Choose or Lose campaign, which aims to get 18- to 30-year-olds to vote, says it all right there in the name; the gravy train is leaving the station, and the ballot is your ticket onboard.

Just beneath the surface of much of this voter activism is the assumption that increased turnout would move American politics to the left, by redistributing wealth to the poor and disenfranchised. There’s probably some merit here, which explains why so many get-out-the-vote groups are proxies for the Democratic Party.

But that doesn’t change the fact that they are trolling for votes among people who don’t appear to take their citizenship very seriously. Osterloh’s bribery scheme merely exposes this motivation in a way that embarrasses voter activists.

Osterloh admits that he’s motivated by more than democracy worship. "One of the goals that I’ve had in my lifetime is to see that all Americans have health care like every other major country on Earth. One of the ways to do that is to make sure that everybody votes." At least he’s honest about it.

Perhaps the "poor and disenfranchised" have not gotten the rewards for their talents that has Young Jonah. Thir mothers might not be filthy rich plus an insider? Maybe they've become frustrated with The Man? I surely am! I expect the idea of redistributing wealth terrifies this child of privilege. Maybe getting enough voters will finally prevent Big Pharma and the insurance industry and ... from stopping some type of universal health care solution.

I'm not sure if by giving prisoners the franchise means after they've done their time. I think more folks are worried about those convicted of minor crimes losing the franchise for the balance of their days, something that is clearly influencing poor and often African-American communities.

You mention Beavis and Butthead as a put down to disinterested voters, and I concur up to a point, but some studies do suggest the more educated a person is the more likely they are liberal. And since your beloved Bu$hCo is surely the dumbest and most arrogant SOB we've ever had in the White House I'm not sure you want to go here. Then again, you and Bu$h have much in common. I've understood some type of quote that he was born on third but really think he hit a home run. You can relate huh Jonah!

Finally, in Ohio, tax exempt mega churches and other evangelicals likely made the difference in the GOTV battle so I'm really not up to being lectured on this issue. Also, who can forget your party making young black kids wait in line for hours at that college? And there is little dispute that Ohio's GOP SoS Kenneth Blackwell did an illegal purge of poor urban black voters! Loading up the numbers of voting machines for suburban voters by pulling them from urban areas was clearly done. Stretch the line and perhaps some will walk away? Florida tactics made even the more evil. I guess your side does laugh at these open, admittedly silly, efforts to level the playing field. After all we don't own Diebold!

I'm figuring if Jonah is a regular for The Star I'll have lots of material. Peace ... or War!


Sunday, July 30, 2006

API's Michael Ciamarra simultaneous shilling of "lawsuit abuse" while defending Bu$hCo

I'm rather pleased that my right wing radar was working so well as I immediately thought API when I saw the title of this Huntsville Times opinion peiece entitled "Irresponsible Litigation". I did however guess it was from API President Gary Palmer but it turned out to be VP Michael Ciamarra's.

Or maybe it was his? As I posted on before, it is hard to tell at times. This prior post also is a decent overview of the Right's "policy" efforts, with some attention paid to API and their relationship with the Heritage Foundation and ALEC. I'm amazed at the ability of some conservatives to get in multiple talking points and attacks and strawmen and .... Labeling Specter's threatened lawsuit as "show trial punitive legislation" while defending Dubyah and claiming there's a "lawsuit frenzy' is an instant classic. He's nearly to Jim Wooten levels.

David Prather of the Times thankfully had some sensible examination of Bu$hCo's actions above Ciamarra's shilling. I've been relying on Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe for the reporting of this all too common Bu$hCo radicalism. Peace ... or War!


Scots Up Still on Alabama Two Year System

The B'ham News has Brett Blackledge and Kim Chandler reporting "Lobbyists retained despite ban" that reveals even more questionable behaviors at many of our JuCos. Read it and weep. Big money, our money I'd add, is/was being spent by these colleges, often hiring lobbying firms as "not lobbyists", although the BOE had forbidden! Note the connections! Follow the money! Demand accountability!

This relatives working in the system salary summary is amazing. I'm all for folks being paid a fair wage yet some of these educators/bureaucrats are stacking some serious cheese. What employees and professors at Auburn University were paid for their work is significantly less than what many of these people are drawing. Teaching in Georgia public schools, with a challenging population at both schools I served in, with several years of experience and a Masters (plus a JD and nearly an Ed.S. that don't count), paid me a salary in the high thirties or barely over forty.

Perhaps many of these public employees have put in many years and hard work to get to the point to where they are so well-compensated. It may be true that most, if not all, are in these positions due to their qualifications rather than connections. I doubt, given the culture that apparently seems to be present at our two-year system, that the work is more demanding than similarly situated service in academia and government. Since the "not lobbying" work above was often couched as consulting work then I'm wondering why folks perhaps earning this kind of money need a little special help. Many of these public employees also hold solid benefits. Just imagine the state retirement drawn off those last few salary years!

I'm simply having a hard time reeling my Scots in thinking of how hard people I know, and that includes me, work in public service positions and then seeing how much these folks and families are banking. Peace ... or War!


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Jeff Sessions plus ... are "Shortsighted on Energy"

"Big Oil" might not own Jeff Sessions outright as Oil and Gas ranks #15 on his industry support according to The Center for Responsive Politics yet if he's prepared to simply label people opposing expansions of Gulf Coast drilling as "haters of fossil fuels" maybe they can save their money? The Anniston Star gives us the details in their Editorial from today entitled "Shortsighted on Energy" with the close as follows:

Damaging human health effects, especially on the young, can be blamed on the exhaust that comes from so many tailpipes and smokestacks. The environmental damage to our water and air is another toll. Also, injury is done to pristine natural views as rigs go up just off shore. The exception is Florida, where residents there see this green (as in environmental) issue as a green (as in a prosperous real estate market) issue.

Then there is the by-product caused by enriching Arab states with petro-dollars, which in turn are often used to fund terrorists and prop up thugs.

Taking these things into consideration, dependence on fossil fuels becomes more costly than is generally perceived.

But you can take this big-picture argument only so far. As the old economics saw goes, “In the long run, we’re all ... dead.”

True, but visionary leadership would look beyond oil and gas, both finite resources. Statesmen and stateswomen would look to clean, renewable sources with more passion, more vigor and more money for research and development. They would invest in R&D so that the United States would be the world’s leader in next-generation energy. They wouldn’t waste time with strawman arguments about hating fossil fuels.

They would speak instead about loving the nation so much that they insist on investing on the next big thing, one that is cleaner and doesn’t keep the nation beholden to problematic foreign sources

"Stateman" hardly comes to mind with Jeffy B does it? Recognizing the complexity of the dealing to get us to this point is a good start. Certainly Gulf Coast states have some serious financial issues to consider and there are other Big Mules with plenty at stake here. I'm simply not comfortable in trying to tackle the status of the House and Senate bills but from what I understand neither are going to be the end of the story.

However, I am fine with suggesting that with energy prices (and profits!) through the roof this might be the ideal time for bold thinking. The Apollo Alliance might be a good start to understanding the many benefits to a Progressive energy policy. The Center for American Progress has some solid ideas that even Jeff Sessions might not label as hateful. Can you believe this guy had the gall to declare fossil fuels as "hated" in front of God and everybody? Richard Pombo (R-ExxonMobile) wouldn't have used that language.

We know Bu$hCo and the GOP isn't going to propose anything that concerns their Big Mule backers yet Jeff Sessions willingness to attack rather than consider another way confirms my longing for an alternative. Alabama, and our nation as a whole, deserves better than he'll ever deliver. Peace ... or War!


Friday, July 28, 2006

Alabama JuCo's "Hee Haw" Hiring Hullabaloo

A tip of the tam to a Republican reader and source for the find above. I'd missed this J.D. Crowe gem from the Mobile Press-Register. You can see and even purchase Mr. Crowe's work here.

Of course the BOE would not be as open as our Hee Haw cast. They'd have it all worked out beforehand I'd guess. David Prather of the Huntsville Times is right to begin his editorial from today's paper with the following:

Secret decision-making continues to plague the state school board

Thomas Corts, the retired Samford University president, is an excellent choice to head Alabama's two-year college system. But through no fault of his own, he will start the job with a huge problem.

That's because the Alabama Board of Education continues to conduct its business so maladroitly it almost defies belief.

"Maladroitly" is a new word but unfortunately here in Alabama we'll likely need to file that one away for later use. That the Board of EDUCATION can't seem to learn the error of their ways says much I fear about our state.

Good luck Dr. Corts, you're gonna need it. Peace ... or War!


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Will the Bama BOE please demonstrate "leadership"?

You'd think they'd learn! But this is Alabama. Slowing down and holding open meetings and seeking public input and ... would seem to be a good move toward the Alabama Board of Education resolving the disaster of our two- year colleges that their lack of oversight and openness has brought. Here they go again.

Indeed Dr. Thomas Corts, retired President of Samford University, might be a good choice as Acting Chancellor, yet as the B'ham News notes the manner of making the choice is very poor form. The News opines:

For the record, that's not what Alabama's open-meeting law envisions. With narrow exceptions, public boards and bodies are supposed to make decisions in public. Meeting in public to ratify decisions made in private at the very least violates the spirit of the law.

But even if you disregard the law - and a majority of the board is apparently all too willing to do that - private decision-making is the wrong way to set the two-year system on a more accountable and trustworthy course. How can the board demand openness from the people it hires if it's not willing to operate in the sunshine itself?

If Corts is the best person to take the helm of this badly listing ship, an open process is only going to make that fact more apparent.

If the school board goes the back-room route to hiring Corts, it's not only a disservice to taxpayers but a disservice to him.

What is complicated about this? Instead of Governor Riley going along with and in fact enabling this end run he should have reminded the BOE what has gotten us into this mess.

As an aside, Dr. Corts' service with Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform seems like a damn fine sign, even if the BOE can't show him the way. Like many here, he'll just have to work around the lack of leadership and the many barriers toward progress. Peace ... or War!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More "Wrong Thinking" from Jim Wooten on Education Standards and Testing

I've given Jim "The Tool" Wooten some slack lately. I think part of the reason is due to the new format of his "Right Thinking" work in the AJC where comments are provided. The comments are often as dreadful as Jim's positions, with little if any southern hospitality shown by some posters, yet maybe that is Jim's role at the AJC. His work seems to attract a rather bizarre mix. I've long found his reasoning and writing difficult to follow, yet when it comes to his shilling the right's ideas on "education" he often demonstrates an especially horrible lack of understanding.

Although some comments are top drawer in his following "Right Thinking", Jim's "Expanding government’s reach OK if it adds education options" is yet another example of how the Conservative approach to education is flawed. One comment mentioned that trying to convince Jim of the error of his ways is like "flogging a dead horse". I agree but want to point out the value of scolding and confronting "The Tool" is to perhaps move his readers toward a more complete view than Jim generally provides.

Jim Wooten writes, in part, with my comments appearing parenthetically in bold, as follows:

The testing requirement is an example to conservatives of how to bring about reform — and get better outcomes. Whether children are compared across state lines is immaterial. That’s relatively meaningless. (Testing takes time away from learning and since it is a given that it is merely "a snap shot: on a given day that ought to be less emphasized. Useful but relying on testing is just plain stupid! Note the "outcomes" language. Once again, learning is not about input and output. I've often figured the "business model approach" would soon fall into broad ridicule if we could get a few from the business community to spend some time in the trenches with educators.)

But if the curriculum is standardized and children are tested on it, as Georgia is doing with its Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in grades 1-8 , what it reveals about how schools and children compare is important. It identifies where the problems are — and draws attention to them. (I've taught under the Georgia Quality Core Curriculum and worked on preparing tests to attempt to measure effectiveness of the learning. I've also peeked at CRCT test questions. The persons preparing these tests are often not educators, plus clearly not historians, and many questions would offend an undergraduate in a measurement class. The canned curriculum increasingly forced on schools makes us too often teach "an inch deep and a mile wide" which is certainly not the way the average child best learns.)

Over time, incidentally, as Georgia upgrades the curriculum and pulls up the laggards, children here will perform to national standards on tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the SAT. It’s a matter, I believe, of standardizing curriculum and testing it, constantly raising standards for what’s considered passing. Georgia’s on the right course. (Your ideas Jim are easily sold. Makes sense to many yet as that cartoon above reveals it is hardly a solution. Rigor is lacking I regret in many classes and yet my experience in a Georgia High School, after four years in a Georgia Middle School, hardly encouraged this educator. I do agree with the "incidentally" you used in that improvements would merely be by "chance".)

Once parents get information about their child and their child’s school, they need to be able to act on it. The brilliance of NCLB is that it begins to promise parents the same thing that HOPE scholarships promise parents. The promise is that there’s a reward for effort. (I'm lost here Jim, as I am often in trying to follow your "right thinking", yet using "brilliance" with NCLB simply doesn't seem to compute. Perhaps the rare reader can help me decipher your point?)

HOPE says to eighth-graders that regardless of family income or circumstance, effort will be rewarded and the doors of college will be opened. (Having experienced "grade inflation" pressures at the High School level and "pass them all" realities at the Middle School I must object. I'll also add that kids that have been taught under the "one damn fact after another" approach are hardly going to groove when tyhe arrive through the doors of college. The 21st century jobs are going to require creativity aren't they?)

NCLB says to parents that if they care enough about their child’s education to get involved, they don’t have to eat their frustration simply because they can’t afford to move and are powerless to force change on their child’s school. (I'll submit that parents that care don't need a bureaucratic wet dream to have influence over their child's education. In fact, many parents are plenty frustrated with our testing and curriculum. From schools to parents, NCLB limits the freedoms of schools, parents, etc.)

... For the poor, the first key is to provide access to better education. The second, as he spelled out to delegates, is to own something. A home. And for some, a business. “Ownership is vital to making sure this country extends its hope to every neighborhood,” Bush said. (Jim's writing of delegates to the NAACP meeting Bu$hCo finally had the cajones and courtesy to appear before. Jim is back to the simultaneous shilling of GOP talking points it appears but yes it appears "poverty" seems to be the factor in learning or not, even if Margaret Spellings ignores her own Department. Once again, their own research shows vouchers don't accomplish anything. Solve the poverty and the learning will often follow. I've got a feeling Jim and his crowd might not like the idea of "busing" and "social engineering" don't you?)

It starts with families, a mother and father in the home. Then education. Then ownership. Then self-sufficiency and independency. Then less government. (Once again, what about the poverty? What about college tuition costs? What about jobs for poorer people instead of corporate profits being the focus of our trade policies? What about making sure a parent or parents don't have to work like two trojans to pay the bills? What about affordable and decent health care? What about ...?)

If an expanded federal role in the traditional purview of state and local government does indeed bring about reform, and competition — by giving parents information and incentive and means to act on it — it will have been a completely worthwhile expansion.

Although one has trouble thinking Jim is "conservative" and/or "libertarian" after reading this apologia for Big Government, his last portion has the obligatory market reference for Old Jim to keep his bona fides. "Competition" and "incentive" thrown in there and Jim's said the magic words perhaps? I must ask, "How competitive is our society when the fat cats keep getting fatter and regular folks keep backing up?" yet that's another issue. There's no dispute that this has been generally true for the last twenty-five years but unlike Jim I frown on painting with such a broad brush.

I'll not make Jim's head explode by bringing in Bandura's "self-efficacy" and yet somebody might benefit. Reading in this area really influenced my thinking and teaching and ... It's hard to sell Bandura to folks like Jim maybe yet it seems like common sense, which he likes to claim as his.

I'll move along I suppose as "flogging a dead horse" is rather unproductive work. Peace ... or War!


Monday, July 24, 2006

Some more "Wheeling & Dealing" at our JuCos?

"Your education is the one thing they can't take away from you boy!" was one of my Old Daddy's sayings. He stressed the value of learning for its own sake up to a point but figured it was an investment as well. I've mentioned in various posts that Governor Wallace at least in part used the JuCo system as a political network and here in Alabama nobody is likely shocked that moving money amongst the players is part of the arrangement.

Despite all of this, I'm surprised that once again Brett Bleckledge of The B'ham News has delivered. Today's "Firm linked to official's brother : $135 million in business went to Merchant Capital" reveals that big money and "family values" once again intersect in our "education" efforts. Blackledge reports the following:

The state's two-year college system has given more than $135 million in bond business since 1999 to a Montgomery investment banking firm linked to the brother of Debra Dahl, the system's vice chancellor for finance.

Records show the bond business, which represents more than two-thirds of all bonds sold by the system since 1999, generated more than $1.1 million in fees for Merchant Capital, an investment banking firm in which Dahl's brother, Ken Funderburk, is executive vice president.

The work that went to Funderburk's firm came after Dahl's office took over all postsecondary education bond business in the state. In 1998, system officials forced all two-year colleges to coordinate their borrowing through Dahl's office, records show. Colleges hired their own firms for bond issues prior to the change in policy. ...

System records show that Merchant Capital received the lion's share of bond work from the two-year system, having been chosen to handle 20 of the 27 bond issues from 1999 through 2005. That amounted to $135 million of the $205 million in bond issues sold during the period to raise money for two-year college building projects, records show.

Dahl's office did not use a competitive process to sell the system's bonds, instead using a negotiated sale that allowed the system to select the investment banker and work out an agreement, records show. System spokesman Andre Taylor said state law does not require the system to sell bonds through a competitive process.

The system's bond records show that Merchant Capital charged the system on average more in fees than other investment bankers. Merchant Capital's average fee on bond deals was 8 basis points, or 8 one-hundredths of a percent of the total amount borrowed. In some cases, the firm charged as much as 13 basis points for bond issues, records show.

The average fees charged by other banking firms that handled two-year system bonds ranged between 6 and 7 basis points.

Had the system paid an average of 7 basis points for all of Merchant Capital's work, it would have saved more than $190,000 on the bond deals handled by the company, an analysis of the fees charged shows.

There's also the issue of a college scholarship awarded to Dahl's daughter from former Fire College Director Lanston's Foundation yet that's small change. The Alabama BOE must demonstrate some serious efforts to address these issues and the culture of the JuCo community.

I've yet to read Jennifer Washburn's "University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of American Higher Education" yet her work seems relevant up to a point. Her investigative work reveals how the corporate world has often readily stepped in to help our often cash strapped school. But there's a cost. In the long run the learning often suffers when profits and funding become a focus. Campus Progress has a nice "top ten" things students should know about big business is influencing education.

At our Alabama two-year system it appears that at least one major focus of some of the "leadership" was demonstrating an intersection of both profits and funding, either for their own or another leader's "own". Again, this is an outrage, if in fact accurate, from simply a fiscal and ethical standpoint. As an educator, I'm more concerned that the culture of the schools may have been in fact less driven by the goal of stretching minds and more by lining pockets. Peace ... or War!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

"An Education You Can Build On" Meant What?

Back in the day when I did more boosting than bitching, I've sat and stood before the wall pictured behind Roy Johnson at Southern Union in Wadley. I'm almost certain it reads "Southern Union" at the top with "An Education You Can Build On" appearing below. Facilities were provided for regular banquets with the Chamber, Partners in Education, .... where the local powers that be, such as they are in my locale, could network and pat each other on the back.

Brett Blackledge of the B'ham News is back with a report in today's paper entitled "Johnson's $1 million home tied to colleges" that actually hasn't much which surprises me. Given the massive amounts of money flowing through contruction projects at the various JuCos, especially my local Southern Union, it would be easy for plenty of give and take to occur. I'm somewhat troubled by the building at SUSCC, even though I think we ought to have wonderful facilities, when I know some K-12 schools in Alabama are in dreadful shape. I've long wondered about the money flowing in and out of various pockets.

As for the reporting, the explanations given by various contractors and workers make some sense and perhaps there's not that much to complain over. Some of this at least seems questionable but not outrageous. I figure there is more and I hope the Board of Education will conduct further inquiries. I found it ironic that the private people were willing to talk to the media but "efforts to reach" various public employees "failed". I trust the BOE will not fail to reach these educators.

Dr. Joanne Jordan, long associated with, and former interim President of, Southern Union, appears in the coverage referencing her home over on Lake Martin. A contractor reviewing her building plans with no charges resulting troubles me little yet I did note her son Ben Jordan serves as Business Manager at Southern Union and her son Andy Jordan holds the same position at Central Alabama.

Yet more intrigue is revealed here. The Alabama State Board of Education must create some clear standards and methods by which the public can be aware of how our entry level higher education efforts are serving the state's citizenry. "An Education You Can Build On" is likely a good marketing tool but "Education" goes well beyond the "You" as "We" benefit as well. Creating a system where top drawer education can and will occur, perhaps especially so for the population generally served by these schools, is the foundation upon which our state's progress depends. If "sweetheart deals" and "taking care of your own" detracts even marginally from the true mission of our schools then we've got a problem beyond simple waste and even graft. Taxpayer accountability is a given I hope. Peace ... or War!


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jonah "Doughy Pantload" Goldberg In My Star?

Thursday’s Anniston Star has an opinion piece entitled “Why a cease-fire makes no sense” from Jonah Goldberg of Tribune Media Services that I’ll just let you read for yourself should you choose. Using "no sense" is one of Jonah's classic approaches to complexity. I wanted to educate my few readers on young Jonah and his "qualifications" on geo-politics, military strategy, international relations, history, …

While I don’t outright dismiss some of Jonah’s “thinking”, as every once in a while he'll do tolerable work, I can’t help but ponder on what makes Jonah, or George W. Bu$h for that matter, smarter than others who have walked this same rocky and perilous ground.

Young Jonah’s first brush with fame, beyond his infamous mother Lucianne Goldberg, came from his access to the Linda Tripp (You remember her as the older "friend" of Monica Lewinsky don't you?) tapes. Inda Schaenen, in Salon, described him as “The Jester of Monicagate”. Perhaps he earned the title via his genes as Mom was rather the gossip fan from telling of how LBJ would twist a nipple in the elevator and then going after the Clenis and … She even admits to creating a fake news organization to earn press access to the McGovern campaign while being paid by one of Tricky Dick’s operatives to keep the Nixon team up to speed. Genetics? My Old Daddy used to say, "Blood will tell boy." Yet Jonah's environment, one of wealth and intrigue and ..., has to have something to do with his current approach doesn't it?

Jonah got his start in the right wing machine at the American Enterprise Institute working for Ben J. Wattenberg. He is now a Contributing Editor to The National Review (Online) and a frequent contributor to TownHall. He is even a columnist for the LA Times after they headed right by replacing Robert Sheer with young Jonah.

Juan Cole, an actually scholar on the Middle East that speaks three dialects of Arabic, has a long-running conflict with Master Goldberg for his lack of knowledge of this region. Yet, from my understanding Professor Cole is most perplexed why Jonah is treated as even a casual observer by much of the media. Likewise, young Jonah is willing to cite “truthiness” to his readers in a role as climate change denier, going so far as to suggest a few changes of degrees might have some pleasant consequences. “Bugged” immediately after Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll was released, I understand, but cannot readily locate links, that Jonah joined with fellow NRO “talent” Katherine Jean Lopez in various fantasies of her ordeal, both pre and post-release. Young K-Lo got her start with The Heritage Foundation. Do you see a pattern here?

Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake wrote her “All in the Family” post on second-generation “talent” like Jonah, known around the lefty blogosphere as “Doughy Pantload”, with a portion of her writing as follows:

I bitch about this a lot so don’t expect me to pass up a golden opportunity. This is exactly the kind of second-generation junk thinking being produced on the right by people like Ben Domenech, Jonah Goldberg and George W. Bush — people who vault into to (sic?) highly paid, influential positions despite a complete and utter lack of talent or skill purely because of who their parents are and their willingness to say just about anything. Badly. A group who have tragically confused the wingnut welfare system for some kind of meritocracy, who think their megaphone comes as the result of skill and don’t acknowledge that both privilege and think tank underwriting are largely responsible for the opportunity to appear on the stage in the first place.

I always like the articles these pissy rich kids write about the welfare state and how it doesn’t encourage people to refine themselves and their ideas by engaging in competition. One need look no further than this article and those by people like Herbert Spencer scholar Jonah Goldberg (oh and let us not forget his work on Upton Sinclair) to see the utter hypocricy involved in this argument by those who are usually making it: nobody would pay for their crap if it wasn’t being underwritten by someone with a political agenda, and there is no need for their work to rise to anything above sub-mediocrity in order to keep getting subsidized.

This childish world view, unsullied by any contact with people from other cultures or life experience, scornful and elitist and promoted beyond anything it would earn as a result of its own merits, exists not only on the page — it is running the country and playing Army Men with the Middle East. No doubt they resent it mightily when Professor Cole shows up to puncture their delusional bubbles and deliver, in the words of Wolcott, a "righteous punk smackdown." Once again they send the second-rate and intellectually shiftless to defend the fort.

Jonah’s warmongering is of special note in that he offers up excuse after excuse why he can’t go fight. 101st Fighting Keyboarders indeed! To have him celebrating a delay in ending death and destruction makes me want to Ralph.

That Jonah Goldberg’s opinion is being published is fine, even in "my Star", yet I at times wish a reader could quickly obtain backgrounding on “authorities” or “columnists” so readers might be a little better informed. Young Jonah, actually just a few years younger than I, seems to hardly be an expert on much of anything yet he surely does appear willing to claim the truth. Peace …or War!


Friday, July 21, 2006

Alabama Gubernatorial Candidate Loretta Nall Visits Near The Highlands

Loretta Nall was gracious enough to drive east to Roanoke last evening to speak to a small gathering of some of my friends. A bonus was that a local Libertarian I'd lost touch with dropped by as well. Very impressed we were plus we hope Loretta will return as she's able. Visit Loretta Nall for Governor. Be sure to drop by her blog as her writing will both touch you and make you think. Give her some money and some "linky love" (a Blue Gal phrase) to help her get her message out. Thanks Loretta! Peace ... or War!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Update on Dr. Gundlach's Claims Against Auburn

I posted last week on Auburn University Sociology Professor Gundlach's claims that Dr. Petee, his Department's Chair, was doing "fake classes" for athletes. Today's B'ham News has Jon Soloman reporting "Professor says he won't help with probe" that seems to throw even more gas on the fire. Not that I'm a huge sports nut but I hate to see this tarnish Auburn's reputation. After the damage Bobby and Lowderites have done this is the last thing Auburn needs. At least The Braves are finally playing good baseball. Peace ... or War!


Monday, July 17, 2006

Bob Riley - No Bu$hCo but "Right Track" Has Ruts

The "Right Track" might not be working for everybody Governor. Back in June you spent taxpayer money trotting around the state celebrating all you've done but Sunday's news ought to rachet back your glee. Tiffany Ray of the Birmingham Business Journal appears on MSNBC with "Alabama near top in bankruptcies". Here's the deal from the start of the article:

Despite the growth of the Alabama auto industry and other economic gains, the state is reporting bankruptcy rates in 2006 that rank among the highest in the nation.

And with high poverty levels, low job growth and weak consumer protection laws, experts say the state isn't likely to lose its place near the top of the bankruptcy list.

When I think of Bob Riley as Governor I can't help but think of Dubyah touting his accomplishments in Texas, where the Governor is not much more than a figurehead. The scholarship I've been exposed to has the Lone Star State way ahead on the weak Executive continuum. But Alabama's close!

There is no doubt the rich have gotten richer and the poor poorer under Bu$hCo. The trend holds in Alabama with the following statistics cited by Ms. Ray:

In Alabama, 16.9 percent of residents, or about 763,000 people, lived in poverty in 2004, according the U.S. Census Bureau. That's up from 13.3 percent, or 583,000, in 2000.
The tax cuts for poorer people might help but I'll argue the Democrats provided the leadership on that effort and your Republican Big Mules darn near derailed the effort.

Here's yet another thing to ponder from Ms. Ray's work:

In 2000, Alabama reported about 353,000 manufacturing jobs, he says. By 2004, that number had dropped to 286,000.

During that time, the state's population grew 1.9 percent, below the U.S. average of about 4 percent, a sign of low economic activity, Norris notes.

Let's not forget the rough spots in the road Governor. Many Alabama citizens are barely getting along with high fuel costs. Since your President came into office tuition costs have risen so much that it has become prohibitive for me to take classes. Health care costs are astronomical.

Fianlly, the magazine that keeps on handing you awards cites this as a positive for the South:

* the most preferred region for investment by foreign companies by a large margin? * the least unionized and most right-to-work region in the world's richest country?
Low wages and low taxes has always been the Southern recipe for economics. I hope folks know "right to work" is more accurately labeled as "hard to organize". This hasn't exactly worked out that well, and I'll offer that in the modern world it can't work out favorably, for our region. I'm not so sure this magazine is going to recognize factors that will truly transform Alabama. Lack of consumer protection leads to abuses where the trial lawyer community is often the group that seeks a remedy to mistreatment of regular folks but that's another issue.

In fact, consider how North Carolina got to where they are getting all this good press from this same magazine. My understanding is that they educated their citizens to where they were head and shoulders above other Southern states. With the exception of some factory farms and the like, much of North Carolina's growth is in research and technological areas.

Finally, this magazine looks about a decade or more behind. They seem rather supportive of "globalization" and I'm rather sure they approve of the corporate welfare approach (overpaying for jobs). Selling job sites and training programs and ... is growth on the back end. Education is doing it on the front end. It might not show up until decades down the road and it is hard to measure but it works.

You just got back from China. Do you really think Alabama can win in the low cost and limited regulation game? Peace ... or War!


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Concerns Over Top Spot at Snead State

Dana Beyerle of the NY Times Montgomery Bureau reports in The Gadsden Times "Some fear cronyism in Snead president pick" that builds off the Alabama BOE's recent firing of Roy Johnson. Forty plus applicants for the top spot seems astronomical. Many have Alabama connections. Ought to be interesting. Peace ... or War!


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bama BOE Has Some 'Splaining to Do

Bob Johnson of AP appears in The Montgomery Advertiser with "Firing raises open meetings law questions" questioning an end run around Alabama's "open meetings" law when the State Board of Education recently canned Roy Johnson and hired Dr. Renee "Four's Better Than Five" Culverhouse as the Interim Chancellor.

Isn't this failure to do things by the book and with disclosures and ... what got us in this mess? The Board seems to need educating as Dr. Culverhouse might not have been the best choice, even on an interim basis. Ella Bell's apparent sexism (Five uses of "he/him"? I'm not so sure about that ignorant, backward progress down the road Ms. Bell and I hope Joe Reed scolds you given what he said above your quote.) is another thing but I'll move along.

That the State Board has so much of their own nepotism at issue wouldn't have been the reason for handling things so quickly would it? Leaving Betty Peters and Stephanie Bell, allegedly the only two Board members free from scrutiny on taking care of their own, out of the counting votes before the meeting makes a Scot ponder.

"Paging Brett Blackledge." Peace ... or War!


Friday, July 14, 2006

DNC's Howard Dean Has Free Air Fare to Alabama

Alabama state GOP chair Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh has offered to buy National Democratic Chairman Howard Dean a plane ticket to come down to Alabama to "publicly outline the positions of the national Democrat Party on any number of issues". I'm not sure how much more public outline she wants than what the DNC's website offers.

The DNC's "Agenda" seems clear enough. If nothing else the "Corruption and Abuse of Power" pages are worth a visit. You mentioned The Don's guilty verdict in your release so I'm sure the crime and graft of the GOP offends you just as much. The DNC's blog "Kicking Ass" is a good reference for what the party believes.

Ms. Andress Cavanaugh ends her anouncement of today with
“The Alabama Democrat Party can’t hold hands with the national party when nobody is looking and run away when it’s convenient,” Cavanaugh said. “To paraphrase another well-known Alabamian – there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the national and Alabama Democrat parties.”
I'm not so sure the state Democrats run away from the national party, especially with these national poll numbers. In fact, the national party left Joe Turnham rather on his own and yet he still nearly won against Mike Rogers in my own U.S. House District. I'm more liberal than most local Democrats so I'm not following why anybody should be ashamed of Governor Dean and the national party. If being out of mainstream means your Secretary of State Candidate Beth Chapman's speech back in 2003 makes sense then I'll be happy to stay out. (You GOP gals are getting good at channeling George Wallace's Politics of Rage.) I am thrilled that Governor Dean is instituting a "Fifty State Strategy" so perhaps we'll do a better job down here. Joe Turnham is reminding us of what we'll not hear from Ken Mehlman or the Goopers in B'ham this evening.

I'm hoping Governor Dean will take her up on the offer. Get the press and proceed to setting the record straight. Talking points seldom hold up in a legitimate discussion. Dean's Presidential campaign and recent work has demonstrated he can talk to all of America, even here in one of the Reddest of the Red States.

Finally, I know Ms. Andress-Cavanaugh has left her position with the lobbying group based in Mississippi due to their gambling work. It seems she conferenced in or was at a meeting I was attending some years back. It was a political issue and seems like it was a group of "liberal trial lawyers" from over in my area. I think we met in Alexander City yet I'm not certain. Does anyone know ifshe once worked on that side of the fence. I know she tried to do work with or for the AEA once, although she now rips them for their political positions that generally favor the Democratic Party.

I'm not sure if it is still open but I wondered if Ken will make an appearance at Birmingham's Tool Box? We know family values are a vital part of the GOP platform yet Ken might enjoy some Southern hospitality. Peace ... or War


Auburn Sociology Professor Alleges Special Treatment for Athletes

Auburn University is back in the news with more bad press. Certainly Bobby Lowder and some of the other idiots down there deserved attention yet I'm disappointed by this AJC piece from Bill Sanders entitled "Auburn investigates allegations - Professor: Athletes got high grades in class that required no attendance and little work". I'm counting 50 plus Google News hits so far, including The New York Times piece that was painfully detailed.

Dr. James Gundlach alleges Dr. Thomas Petee has been too easy on certain student athletes in his "directed reading" classes. I'm not so sure I'd want to air issues with my department chair in thenewspaper yet certainly not about one who is an expert in homicide! Telling a journalist he's "groupie-esque around athletes" might make for plenty of tension up on the seventh floor of Haley Center.

I've taken a graduate seminar with Dr. Petee some years back and found him to be fair and reasonably demanding. He was always willing to talk at length about school violence issues even when I was not in his class/department. I've known of Dr. Gundlach merely by name and face yet can't offer any opinion one way or the other beyond the belief that roasting coffee beans like this seems to be far too much hassle. Certainly if he's concerned he ought to have gone forward at AU yet I'd have preferred this news coverage to have been limited until after the investigation is complete.

I know this mess goes on yet I'm thinking Dr. Petee will be cleared or perhaps merely scolded by the investigation. If he's done wrong then I hope and trust AU will solve the problem. If folks in the athletic department were in on the fix then they better have consequences as well. I agree that athletics often does seem to come first down on The Plains yet I saw little if any evidence when I was down there of professors gaming the system. I also knew plenty of athletes that worked hard to earn their grades. Some were slackers I'm sure but the guys and gals I knew down there took care of their academics.

It saddens me when an intitution and people you respect face troubles. Peace ... or War!


Dressed Down - GQ's Sean Flynn on Ralph Reed

I am in awe of Sean Flynn's GQ piece on Ralph Reed. North Carolina is proud of you I'm sure Mr. Flynn. Just read the thing but be ready for some work clicking through all the pages. I'm going back for another turn. I'm hardly a GQ fella but I'll buy the issue with this article. The image from Eric Lesser is likewise amazing. I recall David Sirota calling John Stossel "smarmy" recently yet Ralph also wears it well

I'll hope plenty of folks in Georgia and beyond consider this man as representative of the Christianists that are a huge part of the GOP machine. If even a tenth of the stories about him are true then he's a truly awful person. I've made my share of mistakes yet to have this character talk of character turns my stomach. That he's be more welcome around most of my family due to his "faith" and politics makes it all the worse. My old Daddy's name was "Ralph" and I carry the handle as my middle name so my scorn is complete for Mr. Reed. He makes me want to ralph.

Republican "values" run rather thin when folks like Ralph Reed are examined. I wonder how John Giles of the Alabama Christian Coalition and some of the others around here that work the "values voters" side of the fence would measure up to such scrutiny? When these self-righteous folks enter the public forum then Progressives can, or perhaps should, call them out for "sinning" even though I'd much prefer to avoid throwing stones.

It did me good to recall how Ralph helped Fumbling Fob lose to The Don, bless his heart and here's to a short stint at Club Fed, back in the day. Now I'm longing for the times when the Governor's race was sort of contested but I digress. If The Don is a sinner, and a jury thinks he is although I'm sure appeals are to follow, it might be that he and Ralph Reed both fell in love with money. However, at least The Don hasn't built his entire career pretending to be a Godly man. Peace ... or War!


Thursday, July 13, 2006

The one thing they can't take away from you ...

My old daddy, faulted as he was, surely valued education. He left JSU after doing his time in the Navy toward the end of WWII. I think he simply missed "home" but I often think what he could have done with a little more formal education. He helped make sure his four kids earned several degrees.

Three educators and one social worker, although two sisters have not worked in the last decade or two. He was a smart man that liked politics. My understanding is that he called in a connection or two to get his kids jobs or at least their foot in the door. I still think he'd be a touch outraged by what appears to be going on in our two-year system. Maybe all these family members are top drawer, highly qualified, hard working folks but then again there seems to be lots of smoke here.

The post title is built off a line he said more than once, that being, "Education is the one thing they can't take away from you boy.", figuring they meant "life" I guess. Hardly the optimist was my Dad and yet I think I know what he meant. We all know "It's not what you know but who you know." and darned if that one doesn't seem to hold as well, perhaps especially so here in Alabama.

The image here is of Dr. Renee Culverhouse, President of Gadsden State Community College and interim Chancellor of Alabama's two year college system. I posted yesterday on Roy Johnson being shown the door. The Mobile Register reports in their "Board to study nepotism policy following firing of chancellor" the following:

The interim chancellor chosen by the board, Renee Culverhouse, is not immune to the issue either. She has informed the board that her husband, daughter, brother and son-in-law are employed by the two-year college system.
Roy Johnson had five family members on the payroll so I guess four is a step in the right direction. Now I agree, up to a point at least, with something the piece referenced above contains, that being a statement attributed to Board President pro tem Sandra Ray that states,

She said it's natural that there would be more than one family member working for two-year colleges because in many families working in education it is a tradition passed down from one generation to another.
Please note that Ms. Ray has a daughter and son working in the two year system!

I'll also agree with Political Science Professor William Stewart that you don't want to "throw the baby out with the bath water" in creating a better policy. There's middle ground yet a clear policy ought to have already been nailed down. It appears that plenty of folks have some 'splaining to do.

This situation can partly be traced back to one reason George Wallace pushed so hard for JuCos and technical colleges. Networks, perhaps especially those built on nepotism up to a point, can be handly tools for getting things done in this state. Wallace valued quantity of quality,as might still be the default position here in Alabama, yet this state can hardly afford to have foolishness going on at any level of education.

I also know how hard it is to get your foot in the door at a JuCo in an academic field. I've been told you start way lower in pay at Auburn than at SUSCC plus you aren't expected to publish. Your teaching load is only barely higher. I also know they pay dreadfully low for part-time instructors. An insulting rate if you intend to do a good job with the instruction and grading and prep and ... Maybe they are using the part-time instruction as an audition. Could be they are wanting to see if you'll play nice and all that stuff.

The following is my real concern. Taxpayers are hardly going to pony up when they see, or even think, leaders like Johnson and ... are milking the system. These positions are fine jobs I'm thinking compared to how many Alabamians keep their bread buttered. I know how hard I worked in the classroom and I'm figuring most of these folks were hardly toiling as I didbut probably making just as much if not more than I was. I'm certain there's some resentment from Joe and Jill Sixpack when they see the "family business" in action. This sort of stuff goes on in K-12 settings as well yet it depends on the system I'm sure. Again, qualified people should not be disqualified simply because of family connections yet you've got to create safeguards to prevent abuse or the appearance of monkey business.

It's a damn shame when we see our Executive and Legislative branches asleep at the switch on anything yet to have this be so in education is intolerable. Peace ... or War!


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

State Board of Education Boots Big Johnson

Erin Elaine Mosely of The Montgomery Advertiser provides a solid summary yet let's not forget Brett Blackledge of The B'ham News is the reporter that has been all over this mess. I'm figuring Brett is not going to make the Johnson's Christmas card list. His reporting ought to get several awards.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer gives us a brief bio of Mr. (not Dr.!) Johnson. Qualified? Hardly! That Roy Johnson has risen to this position in the first place says much about Alabama. I've met Roy a few times and can recall thinking WTF essentially every time.

I've been blogging on this for some time, especially as relates to Southern Union in that Wadley, the main campus, is just across the river from The Highlands.

I've yet to see anybody critical of the State Board exercising the no cause clause to end Johnson's tenure. Hope springs eternal that the Board will consider how folks are hired and money is spent yet I understand even a few folks on that entity are tainted by those issues. Peace ... or War!


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Johnny Green tapped as AU's Dean of Students

One of my former Political Science profs, Dr. Johnny Green, has been named as Auburn University's Dean of Students. Congrats! As of this Saturday, Dr. Green will be in this new position where I'm sure he'll do an outstanding job. Peace ... or War!


President Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III

Jeff Sessions says "Wait one cotton picking minute"! The Big Mules were perhaps thinking Virginia's George Allen, assuming he gets past James Webb and I'm not so sure he will, might be the closest thing to Bu$hCo's "intellect" the GOP has in the wings for '08 yet Jeffy B could very well be at least a fall back position.

Alabama's Junior Senator might actually be a reluctant candidate yet very few politicians are harmed when they are considered for the top spot, unless you get laughed at in public. I'm laughing, perhaps to keep from crying, but I'm truly tickled.

Paleo-conservative Hugh McInnish, good Scot that his surname suggests he is, has been blogged on before for his adoration of Senator Sessions ... and his connections to V-Dare and other "questionable" characters/organizations.

To learn, via Mary Orndorff of The B'ham News that "Sessions focus of planned draft for presidential run", that McInnish, an "especially conservative Republican from Huntsville", hopes to get the Alabama GOP to "draft" Sessions into a run for The White House is revealing. McInnish's "thoughts" on drafting Sessions appear on his CurbAEA site. Total tip of the tam to Dan Roberts of "Between the Links" for getting the mention in the News. Dabble on Dan!

The idea that Jeffy B. has "dug in his heels against the White House" is amusing. I agree he has on immigration yet that seems consistent with his past. I know, as does the Anniston Star, he's been carrying Bu$hCo's water on plenty more. I met Senator Sessions when he visited Roanoke earlier this year and found him mostly in line with the Rubber Stamp mentality. I'm thinking the "one good thing" which might result from Jeffy B's drafting would be if he carried his affinity for comely young women staffers with him to the White House. Since the Senator loves Abu Gonzales he could remain on as AG. Both of their legal minds put together might actually equal one lawyer.

I'm still thinking the "authenticity" of George Allen will carry the day for the Paleo-Conservative/Nativist crowd in 2008. Dubyah became a "cowboy" and the Coach's boy(his mother is French!) will use his interest in "redneck religion" to reach their Red State voters. So dream on Hugh. I'm afraid we are stuck with Senator Sessions folks. Peace ... or War!


American Bar Association's Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements

Nat Hentoff, hardly a flaming lefty as demonstrated by this "Judical Murder" piece on Terri Schiavo that goes after the ACLU with special zeal, got ink in today's Anniston Star for his "In many cases, Bush alone decides what is law" piece. The reporting reveals the ABA will soon release a report on President Bu$h's uncommon reliance on signing statements to essentially up front tell Congress he will interpret laws how he chooses. "I am the decider" indeed!

Revealed initially and then followed up by the reporting of Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe, I am pleased the ABA is doing what the Rubber Stamp Congress has avoided. I guess the GOP can follow the example of Troy King by whining and attacking this organization's "liberal bias" once the report comes out like the AG did with the Alabama death penalty ABA task force. I did note the task force is seemingly made up of serious legal minds yet I'm not sure if the Rubber Stampers care one way or the other.

I can't help but think the ABA will blast Bu$h and Congress for these radical signing statements and the general lack of constitutional balance these last few years. Kudos to The Star for educating our region. Peace ... or War!


Monday, July 10, 2006

SPLC's Mark Potok & MSNBC's Tucker Carlson

I don't have a video or link or transcripts yet, and perhaps never will, yet I was certainly pleased to see Mark Potok, Intelligence Project Director of own Southern Poverty Law Center, handle Tucker Carlson this evening. Tucker tried mischaracterizing the SPLC's concerns of extremist types using recruiting shortfalls to enter the military. Mr. Potok, who appears to the left, simply wouldn't allow Carlson's foolishness to go unchallenged. Well done sir! Peace ... or War!

UPDATE - July 11, 2006 - Here's the transcript:
Well, is the United States military becoming a training ground for neo-Nazi and other extremist groups? An organization called the Southern Poverty Law Center says oh, yes. That group claims white supremacists are taking advantage of relaxed recruiting standards to join the armed forces where they get weapons training and explosive training. Are we breeding a new generation of Timothy McVeighs? That‘s the question.
Who knows, but I will point out the obvious point, that the Southern Poverty Law Center raises quite a bit of money pedaling the notion that indeed, it does. That the military does harbor potential Timothy McVeighs. So let‘s ask someone who‘s intimately involved with The Southern Poverty Law Center, which incidentally has called the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to do something about this. Mark Potok is joining us now from the Southern Poverty Law Center to explain why he believes the military is being infiltrated by white supremacists. Mark, thanks a lot for coming on.
CARLSON: It seems like you have no evidence at all that this is actually true. Do you?
POTOK: Well, I think that‘s completely false. You know...
CARLSON: How many white supremacists are in the military then?
POTOK: Well, listen to what I have to say. First of all, you might want to remember that back in ‘96, as well as ‘86, there were two scandals, two major scandals having to do with extremists in the military.
CARLSON: Yes, I remember.
POTOK: In 1996, a neo-Nazi gang based in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg actually murdered a black couple as some kind of initiation right. That produced a big scandal, which ended with William Perry, then the defense secretary, issuing a strengthened set of regulations, designed to stop this very phenomenon. At the time, a study was done by a task force on extremism in the Army and what they found actually was that 0.52 percent of the armed forces, if their survey was accurate, were extremists...
CARLSON: ... right to the president. That was 10 years ago...
POTOK: Well that works out to 7,300 people...
CARLSON: ... 20 years ago. How about right now?
POTOK: OK, what I‘m talking about...
POTOK: OK, well let me say my peace.
CARLSON: Please.
POTOK: We did quite a lot of work looking at this and we found a number of anecdotal instances. Later on as we got into the reporting, we started to talk to actual Defense Department investigators. Several were not named, one did speak for the record and was named, a man named Scott Barfield and had some fairly amazing things to say. One of them, for instance, was that he and his crew had identified 320 extremists at one single fort, Fort Lewis, in the state of Washington where he stays. When the commanders were informed of this, only two were thrown out.
CARLSON: OK but...
POTOK: He went on to say...
CARLSON: I‘m sorry. You have gone on quite a bit and I guess the reason I sound a little bit agitated is the implication of what you‘re saying is pretty serious.
POTOK: I agree.
CARLSON: You‘re suggesting that the military, the Army is in fact allowing this. They‘re not doing their best to root these guys out, if in fact they know that there are 300 extremists, whatever that is at one military base, and only two have been brought to justice. You‘re implying that the U.S. military is in league with white supremacists and that‘s a very, very strong thing to say...
POTOK: No, that‘s a completely...
CARLSON: ... and you seem to have no actual evidence...
POTOK: ... false allegation.
CARLSON: What do you mean? You‘re the one making the allegation.
POTOK: Well I‘m not implying...
CARLSON: And you don‘t have any names. You don‘t have...
POTOK: ... that the military...
POTOK: Do I get to speak on your show?
CARLSON: Go ahead. I‘m waiting for the evidence...
CARLSON: ... with baited breath...
POTOK: What we are saying is that the standards have been relaxed by some recruiters and some commanders in some places. We are not alleging that Secretary Rumsfeld is somehow in league with neo-Nazis, as you seem to have read our report, and is somehow colluding to bring these people into the military.
CARLSON: I‘m not saying that.
POTOK: That‘s plainly false. And that‘s not at all what we suggest. What we suggest is that there‘s been a lot of pressure on the military in terms of recruiting. Last year, as you probably know, they failed to make their quotas. They have made them this year, but this pressure has been ongoing and building since the actions in Afghanistan, of course afterwards in Iraq.
CARLSON: OK, but you still haven‘t given me an example within the last 10 years. I can give you two examples and more...
POTOK: ... man named Robert Lee West (ph) who is right now in the military. You know we have pictures of him on our Web site holding a bunch of military weapons and posing in front of a swastika flag...
CARLSON: Wait a second. We also...
CARLSON: Sir, let me finish.
POTOK: Sure.
CARLSON: We have a number of examples of radical Muslims in the ranks of the U.S. military killing people. For instance, there was a soldier, an enlisted soldier in Kuwait...
CARLSON: ... right before the invasion of Iraq, who fragged people in his unit because of Islam. You had John Lee Muhammad, who is an Army veteran, who was trained in the use of firearms in the military who became an observant Muslim and shot a bunch of people, the famous D.C. sniper...
POTOK: That is true.
CARLSON: You could make a pretty compelling case that radical Islam is a problem in the enlisted ranks and instead you‘re claiming that white supremacists are the problem. And I don‘t see them shooting up anybody. My only point is maybe you‘re stuck in a different decade. Maybe it‘s time to kind of update your stereotypes of what the risks are.
POTOK: Well you may think they‘re stereotypes, Tucker. You‘ve named me two cases which I know about very well.
POTOK: In fact...
POTOK: ... a number of cases—excuse me.
CARLSON: Have you issued a report about the Islamic shooting...
POTOK: Yes, we‘ve issued a lengthy report about it. Apparently, you haven‘t looked at it.
CARLSON: Haven‘t seen it...
POTOK: But we certainly have and we‘ve issued a fairly detailed letter to the secretary as well and you know whatever you may think, our purpose is not to sully the armed forces or even to attack the secretary. Our point is to remind people and in particular, the secretary of defense, that this has been a serious problem in the past, to the point where two secretaries of defense, whatever you may pick, thought that it was a very serious problem and issued regulations, instituted task force studies and a number of other measures...
CARLSON: Yes. No, I get it. I get it. Look, Mark, I get it. I get it.
POTOK: You may recall there were congressional hearings on this matter.
CARLSON: It was a serious problem—but so was typhus in Washington, D.C. and it‘s not now. Maybe this is still a problem. Maybe it‘s not. I‘d like to see more evidence, but I—in the meantime, I appreciate your coming on. Thank you.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Learning from H. Brandt Ayers

H. Brandt Ayers of The Anniston Star has long been one of my heroes. As a youngster I devoured his paper and still turn to it often. Today's edition gives us "How liberals failed schools" examing the serious troubles of the Anniston City School System. Hardly a bleeding heart liberal, although perhaps as close to one as many in our area ever have been exposed to, Mr. Ayers writes:

... By the time the Green decision had been fully applied by the lower courts, the Anniston system lost 2,000 students, was 55 percent black and mostly poor. In 2000, the system was more than 95 percent black, 84 percent poor enough to need meal subsidies. A majority of poor, socially and educationally unprepared children flooded systems from Birmingham to Boston, and middle-income parents of both races fled to avoid the deluge.

In a rueful conversation with one of Anniston’s civil rights veterans, the Rev. Nimrod Q. Reynolds, he agreed that parental reaction would have been the same if poor white "redneck" students overwhelmed middle-income black school systems.
Integration became an end in itself, a value greater than education, or so it seemed to the president of the Mississippi NAACP at a 1972 regional education meeting in Jackson. I asked him, "What is more important: education or integration?" He replied without hesitation: integration.

But more and more integration didn’t translate into better and better education for either race. The result was more and more re-segregation.

A Southern statesman, William Winter, who would kick-start school funding in Mississippi as governor in 1982, had this to say about the double anchor of race and poverty: "Discrimination is not limited to race. The line that separates the well educated from the poorly educated is the harshest fault line of all. This is where we must begin. We must get the message out to every household and especially every poor household that the only road out of poverty runs by the schoolhouse."

Tough talk but true I think. Gradualism might have had its own perils yet not likely would it have created endemic poverty such as is true for Anniston. Having taught poor white "redneck" students I will concur on the flight factor. I left my last school after but one year mainly due to the frustrations of working with "rednecks". I would likely not want my child attending that school and I'd choose flight if necessary to avoid. I'll confess "Public policy be damned!" when it comes to our own.

I was pleased that Mr. Ayers mentioned Raleigh as I've read of their successes in trying to make sure no school is "too" poor. If you'll keep it below 40% free and reduced lunch levels it seems to make a difference.

The real reason for this post is simply to celebrate what a tremendous gift Mr. Ayers' talents are to our area. He and The Star have taught me much and they are appreciated. Before I leave this amazing man, the U of A creating a Community Journalism Masters program with the sacrifices of Mr. Ayers must also be recognized. Peace ... or War!


Friday, July 07, 2006

Southern Poverty Law Center and The Gray Lady

The New York Times cited our SPLC's concerns about how extremists may be taking advantage of the recruiting crunch caused by Bu$hCo's disastrous Iraq policy to get advanced military training. While there's plenty to moan and groan about with how Dubyah and his cabal have handled Iraq I'll admit I'd never thought about this consequence. Scary stuff! Indeed I do believe history will have little doubt that this is the "Worst Administration Ever!" Peace ... or War!


Garrison Keillor on Ralph Reed

Salon (just watch the ad!) gives Garrison Keillor space for "A peach of a scandal in Georgia : Ralph Reed's shameless snookering of Christian congregations should spell doom for his political career. But will it?" Ralph Reed has to be one on the top ten folks on my "I'd like to whip their ass!" list. I loathed his work with the "Christian Coalition" and when he "sold out" officially to the Big Mules his place on the list was confirmed. "Should" indeed Mr. Keillor ... but this is deep in the heart of Jesusland. Peace ... or War!